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Safe at Sea: The Mayflower 400

By PAT SCHMIDT - | Feb 9, 2021

This spring marks the 400th anniversary of the crossing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, England, to the “New World.” That voyage, which was thought to take two to three weeks, took more than two months — 66 days. In fact, it is amazing that in 1620, Capt. Christopher Jones got the Pilgrims to the New World at all.

Four hundred years later, the feat of crossing the Atlantic and its howling storms propelled by wind with a crew of 30 — and a passenger list of 102, plus two dogs — will be celebrated in a unique manner this spring with a trans-Atlantic crossing that will replicate the same trip from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, the vessel — the Mayflower 400 — will be fully autonomous: There will be no human on board, and there will be no sails, only the sun to propel the ship.

The Mayflower 400 is a venture of the marine research organization ProMare, IBM and a consortium of global partners. The consortium includes shipbuilders, submarine designers, software engineers, artificial intelligence (AI) experts, oceanographers and university professors on land around the world. In short, the “marine brain trust” of the world.

The Mayflower 400, which is a Trimaran (a central hull with two outrigger wings) is set to sail on April 19 and while there will be no passengers “on board,” people around the world can “take the voyage” via a robust interactive Website. As would be expected, an abundance of information regarding the project is available at https://newsroom.ibm.com/Mayflower-Captains-400-Years-Apart. Or search the Web for “Mayflower 400” or “MAS400.” The Websites are fascinating, so be prepared to become engrossed.

Just as the original Mayflower’s travelers were in search of a new world, the Mayflower 400 will be in search of a new level of knowledge regarding our world, allowing a depth and breadth of marine research never before available to scientists. And as a mere recreational boater, who knows how AI will transform how we all can be Safe at Sea!

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.